Keir Starmer may ‘think about’ EU customs union says expert
Keir Starmer is expected to rejoin the customs union with the EU if Labour takes power in the coming years, Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform, said. He insisted Labour would rejoin the Erasmus student programme before making any other long-term arrangements with the bloc. Speaking to the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, Mr Grant said: “A future Labour Government will certainly try and prove the nature of the deal.
“It will certainly try and rejoin the Erasmus student exchange programme, for example.
“He would consider models whereby we could be in some sort of customs union in the EU.
“Keir Starmer won’t say that in the near future I’m sure but I’m sure he may think about it in the longer run because the manufacturing industry would very much like to be in some sort of customs union with the EU.
“Those are the kind of issues that will come up.”
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His comments come as ministers in Scotland and Wales say they will work together to explore how students in their countries can benefit from the Erasmus exchange programme, despite the UK leaving due to Brexit.
The Scottish and Welsh governments say the proposed replacement for Erasmus falls short of what the EU programme offered.
The UK Government’s alternative – named the Turing Scheme, after the codebreaker Alan Turing – will receive around £100 million in the next academic year.
Ministers in the devolved administrations say this “pales in comparison” to Erasmus, while Turing reduces support for colleges and schools.
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Scotland’s Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead and Wales’ Minister for Education Kirsty Williams issued a joint statement on Tuesday.
They said: “Erasmus+ is about so much more than just university exchanges. In fact, when taken together, more Erasmus+ funding is set aside for further education, schools, adult education and youth groups than for universities.
“Participating in an Erasmus+ exchange has proven to increase people’s self-confidence, cultural awareness, second-language learning ability, and employability.
“What’s more, these benefits are most pronounced for participants coming from the UK’s most deprived areas, and those furthest removed from traditional education.
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“The UK Government’s proposed alternative, by comparison, is a lesser imitation of the real thing.
“The Turing Scheme, funded at £105 million for one year, pales in comparison to Erasmus+, which has now had its budget for the next seven years increased to 26.2 billion euro (£23.2 billion).”
They continued: “It is all the more unacceptable then that the UK Government is looking to impose this inadequate scheme upon Scotland and Wales through new legislation that overrides the devolved nature of education.
“We have been clear that what they are proposing is simply not good enough, and that instead any replacement funding for Erasmus+ should be given in the first instance to the Scottish and Welsh Governments, to allow us to exercise our right to deliver educational services within our respective nations.”
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